Gneuss’s Typology of Liturgical Materials in Anglo-Saxon England

In light of The post below on early medieval liturgy as the chief locus for innovative Scripture interpretation, I’ll post here in a slightly modified form something I’ve had up elsewhere:

The most comprehensive resource I know for getting a quick handle on the variety of early medieval liturgical texts is a 1985 article printed in a festschrift for Peter Clemoes: Helmut Gneuss, “Liturgical books in Anglo‑Saxon England and their Old English terminology,” pages 91-141 in Learning and literature in Anglo-Saxon England : studies presented to Peter Clemoes on the occasion of his sixty-fifth birthday, edited by Michael Lapidge and Helmut Gneuss (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985).

What makes this article invaluable is that Dr. Gneuss has laid out
the major types of books according to liturgical use, then categorized
every surviving A-S liturgical sources known to him within his
typology. Here are his headings from page 99:

BOOKS FOR THE MASS
A Missal and Sacramentary
B Gradual
C Troper
‑ Mass Lectionaries ‑  
D Gospel‑Book and Gospel Lectionary
E Epistolary
BOOKS FOR THE OFFICE
F Breviary
G Collectar
H Psalter
J Antiphoner
K Hymnal
‑ Office Lectionaries ‑  
L Bible
M Homiliary
N Legendary
O Books with special offices
BOOKS FOR THE CHAPTER OFFICE
P Martyrology
Q Regula S. Benedicti and Chrodegang’s Regula canonicorum
EPISCOPAL BOOKS AND RITUALS
R Pontifical
S Benedictional
T Manual
OTHER BOOKS
U Consuetudinary
W Prayer‑Books and Private Prayers
X Liturgical Calendar
Y Confraternity Book

This set of typologies is incredibly helpful for thinking through
different kinds of liturgical materials. The danger in seeing a
typology like this, however, is assuming that since these categories
exist epistemologically that they exist in reality—that each section
represents a kind of book one might find in a monastic library. This is
not the case… Inevitably, certain kinds of material travel together.
For instance, it is quite common for a “Psalter” to be much more than
Gnuess’s category H. Indeed, most physical psalters contain H (the Book
of Psalms) but this is preceded by X (a liturgical kalendar) and
followed by K (a hymnal).

Nevertheless, Gneuss’s categories are a great place to begin for
learning about the range of early medieval liturgical materials.

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1 comment so far

  1. Bosco Peters on

    Very helpful.
    I run “Liturgy”
    http://www.liturgy.co.nz
    You may appreciate what it offers & link.
    Let me know if you would like a link back.


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